The so-called silly season is on for college football coaches, and some would say what's silly about it is how much they are paid, all too often to fail. The silly season in college football refers to the time of year when the coaching carousel revs up and a crescendo of college athletic directors elect to pursue a new direction by putting a new person in charge on the sidelines.
A week ago, Turner Gill was relieved of his duties at Kansas in the Big 12, just two years after taking over for Mark Mangino. Texas A&M joined the farewell party later that same week. The Aggies are leaving the Big 12 to join the SEC next year, but their football coach, Mike Sherman, won't be making the move. Sherman was let go after a highly disappointing final season in the Big 12 in which his team, rated No. 8 in the country to start the season, finished 6-6 and 5-4 in the conference.
We know that the cream-of-the-crop college coaches, like Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Mack Brown at Texas, get big bucks for what they do and what they are paid to do, which is to win football games and play for championships. But even the lesser-recognized programs are opening up their wallets to pay the continually escalating rate for proven as well as prospective college head coaches. And the cost is coming not only upon their hiring, but also at their firing.
When Mangino was dismissed (actually he resigned, but under forced conditions) at Kansas following the 2009 season for alleged mistreatment of his players, KU officials agreed to pay him $3 million just to send him on his way peacefully. Under the terms of Mangino's contract to coach the Jayhawks, which he did for eight seasons, Kansas could have had to shell out as much as $6.6 million.
Although Gill had only four years of head coaching experience at Buffalo University, where he produced a 20-30 record and only one winning season, former Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins, who himself was later forced to resign because of other issues, hired the former All-Big Eight quarterback from Nebraska for a stunning $2 million annually over five years. Gill was a questionable hire at the time, and now the University of Kansas has to cough up the remaining $6 million owed him for the three years he has remaining on his contract, just to cover its glaring hiring mistake.
If Perkins had played his cards closer to his vest (but when was that ever his style?), Kansas probably wouldn't have had to pay Gill what it ended up offering him to take the KU job. But when you make such a big deal about going after former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh (now the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL), who would have insisted on $2 million annually as a minimum base, most likely, it pretty well sets the table for Gill and anyone else being considered for the job.
Gill was a nice guy. Everyone said so, most of all his players, who were never up to the challenge of Big 12 football, either competitively or talent-wise. And his positive, passive approach to the game was what ultimately doomed the likeable Gill in Lawrence, capital of the Big 12 basketball world.
It's ironic that KU fired a winning coach in Mangino (50-48 at Kansas, including 12-1 in 2007) because he was too hard on his players and brought in as his replacement a head coach who befriended and didn't push his players as hard, only to end up having to fire him because he could only win five football games in two seasons. You could question if Kansas really knows what it wants from its football program, or if it even really cares, given the school's longtime national prominence in and deference to basketball.
It was reported that KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger was focusing on Mike Leach as the prime candidate to replace Gill. We all know that Leach, the swashbuckling sword-swinger who turned Texas Tech into an offensive dynamo the xx years he was there, is out of the picture now, having signed on to be the next coach at Washington State. Here's the catch, though: Leach reportedly will receive around $2 million annually at WSU, the same amount that Gill was being paid. You tell me who is the best value at that price: Leach or Gill? It's hardly a fair comparison.
Sherman is leaving Texas A&M after four years and a 25-25 record with $5.8 million in his pocket, although he claims the A&M owes him $8.8 million. Sherman was making $2.2 million a year, excluding bonus incentives, which made him the fourth highest-paid coach in the Big 12 behind Brown ($5.2 million), Stoops ($4.1 million) and Gary Pinkel of Missouri ($2.7 million). Surprisingly, Kansas' Gill was tied for fifth, ahead of Bill Snyder of Kansas State. Art Briles of Baylor and Paul Rhoads at Iowa State.
Going to the SEC, Texas A&M can expect to have to ante up a sizeable salary for its next coach. Five coaches from the SEC are among the top ten in the highest paid category, headed by Nick Saban of Alabama, who ranks No. 2 at $4.8 million a year. Les Miles of LSU (No. 4) receives $3.7 annually, Bobby Petrino (Arkansas, No. 6) gets $3.6 a year, Gene Chizik (Auburn, No. 7), who was an assistant at Texas and head man at Iowa State before taking the Auburn job, receives $3.5 million, and Will Muschamp (Florida, No. 9) is at $3.2 million.
The Big 12 does the SEC one better in this controversial category, however, owning the dubious distinction of having the highest paid coach in college football. Everything is large in Texas, as they say, including Brown's annual salary, which leads the land. Oklahoma's Stoops is at No. 3.
Big 12 Football Coaches Annual Pay* (years in position)
Mack Brown, Texas (14 years) - $5.2 million
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma (13 years) - $4.1 million
Gary Pinkel, Missour (11 years) - $2.7 million
Mike Sherman, Texas A&M (4 years) - $2.2 million
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State (7 years) - $2.1 million
Tommy Tubberville, Texas Tech (2 years) - $2.1 million
Turner Gill, Kansas (2 years) - $2.1 million
Bill Snyder, Kansas State (20 years) - $2.0 million
Art Briles, Baylor (4 years) - $1.5 million
Paul Rhoads, Iowa State (3 years) - $1.2 million
*Excludes bonus potential
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